Travel can hold a plethora of purposes, such as business, relaxation, and celebration, so when I booked a solo trip to Antigua earlier this year, I never imagined that my attempt to escape the NYC cold would end up being a journey of healing and finding myself again.
As someone who visited seven countries and 11 cities last year, travel has always been such an important aspect of who I am. And while I enjoy weekend trips with my girls or being laid up on a baecation, solo trips are more my speed. After taking my first solo trip seven years ago, I’ve realized how freeing it can be to explore a new city or country on my own and how much more I learn about myself during these adventures.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of money or the ability to travel the world, so as an adult, I enjoy the freedom and resources to just book a flight and go. I never thought this would be something that would change or I’d have to sacrifice until I did.
A Break From Solo Travel
If you told me a couple of years ago that I would go two whole years without a real solo trip, I would've laughed. Solo travel was a form of self-care, a way that I could reset and rejuvenate. It was the one thing I felt I had control over, the one thing I had to myself. But then I started dating and became serious with someone who expressed discomfort with the idea of me taking solo trips. I remember a few months into dating, I was headed to Aruba on a much-needed solo trip, and he expressed how uncomfortable he was with this.
A part of it seemed to stem from genuine concern, which most of us solo travelers are used to. But I assured him that I was probably less safe living in the Bronx every day than I was going to Aruba. The other side of it seemed to be from a space of thinking that if I was with someone, I should be traveling with my partner and shouldn't need to take solo trips. At first, I was annoyed and offended. Anyone who is dating me, THEE Queen of Travel, will have to be okay with my travel adventures. I thought it was unreasonable and that he just did not get it.
But as our relationship became more serious and more in-depth conversations arose related to his feelings about this, I realized I would have to make a sacrifice for the relationship.
His comments about how the girlfriends of his boys never traveled alone and only traveled with their men made me question if maybe I did need to reconsider this aspect of my life as I entered a relationship. Was I being selfish and not understanding his feelings? Should I be less focused on solo trips and more focused on building our future and making memories together?
I compromised my love for spontaneous solo trips for the comfort of my partner and for the promise that those solo trips would be replaced by baecations, which I was all for. I wasn't happy about it, but I made the decision that I thought would work.
But not all instances of sacrifice have happy endings.
Reclaiming My Time
Fast forward two years, and 0 solo trips later, my relationship is ending. There's no sob story or terrible incident, I just truly realized that I was no longer fully happy, and this was not the relationship that I could see myself in 5-10 years down the line. While traveling was not the reason for the split, it definitely played some part in my decision. Throughout our time together, I skipped solo trips altogether and filled my time with girls' trips, two baecations, and visiting friends in other cities.
I thought that my time would be filled with more couple trips and vacations together that would keep me too busy to think about solo travel, but that wasn't the reality. And then there were always little comments about how much I traveled, especially if it wasn't with him, which left me feeling defensive or guilty just for taking a girls' trip with my best friends.
In the grand scheme of things, I need a partner who is 100% comfortable and secure with me traveling with friends or alone, even if I choose not to.
So here I am, single again. But I knew exactly what I needed. I had a week off of work in February and would need to leave cold NYC behind, so I did what I do best and booked a flight to Antigua, a destination I have been eyeing forever. I was excited to finally be alone with myself, on a beautiful island, with a mojito in hand and nothing to worry about.
I opted for The Royalton Antigua, an all-inclusive, as opposed to my usual Airbnb, because I truly wanted to unwind and not have to do much thinking and planning. This would give me the freedom to really enjoy my vacation on my own schedule and timing and have everything I needed at my fingertips.
I literally had butterflies while booking my accommodations. That is how much I needed this.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
From the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a sense of comfort that I had not felt in so long. Every single day that I spent at that resort, soaking up the sun, and all that Antigua has to offer, I began to feel lighter. Antigua is such a beautiful island and the people were so friendly and welcoming, so I immediately felt at peace.
Though my breakup was my choice and the right choice, I was still carrying around some sadness and heartache. But as the days went by, I spent time sitting on my balcony, journaling and reflecting on my life over the last two years, as well as what I would like it to look like in the next two.
I allowed myself to cry, to breathe, to forgive myself, and to heal. I woke up when I felt like it, ate when and where I wanted, and allowed myself the comfort of just being free.
I knew that I needed this trip, but the type of spiritual and emotional relief that I experienced was unexpected.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
I realized that giving up solo trips seemed like a small thing to me at that time, but in reality, I was giving up a part of my independence and a part of my own needs. And in the two years I spent without solo trips, nothing else was put into my life to replace that feeling. And so a part of me, the fun and carefree girl, disappeared along with it. During my trip, I spent time on the beach just enjoying the scenery and my solitude.
I did morning workouts on vacation, which is not my thing, but getting a sweat in while overlooking the ocean hits different than any gym. At the pool bars, the staff at the Royalton treated me so kindly and always made sure ya girl always had everything she needed. One thing about being beautiful on vacation, you will be taken care of. I even ventured off the resort to see more of the island and immerse myself in Antiguan culture.
And in the midst of this solo trip, I made friends with three Black women who were celebrating a birthday, and I ended up hanging out with them and partying into the night. It made me realize all the reasons that I love solo travel. The ability to be at peace and enjoy reflective time with myself, but also the ability to make friends and have a damn good time. Not to mention, while partying, I met a fine, tall, handsome man from the U.S. who was also vacationing, but that’s a story for another time...
The point here is that by the time I was headed to the airport five days later, I felt so overwhelmed with emotion. Not because I was sad, or even happy for that matter, but because for the first time in a long time, I felt like me.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
There's a quote that I've always loved that says, "Travel not to find yourself, but to remember who you've been all along." There are so many reasons why I feel that travel is not only an important part of life but a necessary one, and discovering more about who you are as a person is one of those reasons.
I didn't "find" myself on that trip, I already knew who I was. Rather, I awakened a part of me that I had allowed to be dormant for far too long.
Antigua reminded me of how much I love stepping off the plane in a new place and knowing that when I step foot back into the airport again to go home, I won't be the same person I was in that moment. I don't have any regrets about the decision I made, but I know that going forward, I'll be more intentional about compromising parts of me that I love so much.
I hope this inspires someone to reawaken that side of you that you've pushed to the back burner and let fizzle because that version of you cannot wait to shine again.
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Featured image courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
Robin D. Thomas is a brunch loving, Brooklyn born and raised Licensed Social Worker currently working in the Bronx. When she's not writing about all things wellness, entertainment and love, you can find her eating her way through different cities and tending to her plants. Connect with her on IG and Twitter at @_MissRobin or on her Instagram wellness page @thisnoirethat.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Watching Angela “Blac Chyna” White’s transformation in real-time has truly been a sight to see. It wasn’t that long ago that she announced that she was reversing her cosmetic surgeries in an effort to go back to who she was before the world came to know her as Blac Chyna. In previous interviews, she stated that she was dissolving her facial and lip fillers, removing her breast implants, and getting a butt reduction, as well as removing the dimple piercings that enhanced her fame and controversial tattoos.
In a recent Tamron Hall interview, the mother of two said that she has “fully recovered” from the procedures. She is also celebrating one year of sobriety and opened up about being worried about how her new journey would be received by others.
“I’ve been in the entertainment industry for so long, right, and of course, like, you know, coming out, I’m like young, I’m gonna do wild things as we all have,” she said.
“...I feel like by me being vocal and showing everybody you can change your life and things can get better, like through myself, that right there is an accomplishment, and that’s a part of freedom, too.”
But as she started on her journey, many people have shown her grace, which is something she’s grateful for. “And then the fact that people have been showing me grace, it’s like amazing,” she said. “And I feel like when I did it, I just did it. It was more so like spiritual thing and I feel like people see that, and I’ve always been like my authentic self, so what you see is kinda what you get with me, and that’s just kinda what it is.”
Chyna, who recently received an honorary doctorate from Sacramento Theology Seminary and Bible College, has also repaired her relationship with her mom, Tokyo Toni. The social media celebrity surprised her daughter on the Tamron Hall Show. Prior to the sentimental surprise, Chyna dished on the reconciliation and having a better understanding of her mom.
“I must say, some of the things I have to take accountability for because, like my actions. As a mother, you don’t want to see your daughter doing certain things ‘cause it’s like it doesn’t matter what my past was or what we’re going through, I didn’t raise you that way,” she admitted. “So, it’s like, okay, maybe I was a little bit wrong. Maybe I was acting out a little bit. But I feel like as we grow older, I kinda see more, and I understand more.”
Chyna will be starring in season two of Fox's reality competition show Special Forces: World's Toughest Test.
Feature image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images